DES LACS, N.D. (AP) — A passion for Angus cattle has opened the door to wealth of new experiences for Madison Sundsbak.

From the many awards in the show ring to jetting around the country as an ambassador for the livestock industry, Sundsbak says the true rewards are in the leadership skills and character traits she's been developing along the way.

"I would definitely say that I have learned a lot about myself. I can be very assertive, and I can make things happen," she said.

The Minot Daily News reports that president of the North Dakota Junior Angus Association and a former state Angus Queen, Sundsbak, 20, of Des Lacs was elected a year ago to the 12-member National Junior Angus Association board of directors. She is only the third North Dakotan to serve on the board.

The selection process was intensive and included talking with voting delegates, giving a speech, answering questions about the industry and her personal character and participating in a round table to take questions from delegates.

Board members serve two-year terms and travel around the country to various events, promoting the Angus breed and serving as role models for the organization's nearly 6,000 members, ages 8 to 21.

The board also engages in projects that enable them to leave an impact, Sundsbak said. One of the projects has been the development of a phone app for the association.

Sundsbak will become a NJAA board officer in July. A panel of advisers decides who fills the six officer positions, and Sundsbak said she is open to whatever position is offered.

"I ran for the National Junior Angus Board to make a difference for the Junior Angus members," she said.

Sundsbak's wide-eyed awe in meeting a NJAA board member for the first time as a youngster now is reflected back at her whenever she wears the board's trademark green jacket.

"I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they see me," she said. "The impact I am making with the Juniors is one of the things these kids will never forget. I am their example. I am who they want to be when they grow up."

Sundsbak said the adulation doesn't change who she is but it does motivate her to be her best.

Sundsbak is a student at South Dakota State University in Brookings, majoring in agriculture business. The daughter of Josh and Josie Sundsbak, she and her family also are well known on the cattle show circuit.

"My dad exhibited cattle all across the country when he was young," Sundsbak said. "I showed my first Angus ever when I was 4."

The Sundsbak ranch continues to produce award-winning cattle, and Madison has been recipient of a number of those awards.

"Winning is exciting," she said. But she added, "It's a lot of hard work. You don't just get to show up at the show and decide you are going to win."

She and her two younger brothers will rise between 5 and 6 a.m. to begin working with their animals in the feeding, grooming and handling that occurs multiple times a day. On the farm is where showmanship begins, she said, because it involves working regularly with an animal, developing an understanding of the animal and gaining its cooperation.

This year, Sundsbak is showing her heifers, nicknamed Tia and Tamara, and a cow-calf pair. The cow formerly had been shown as a heifer, winning the National Junior Angus Show, the largest livestock expo in the world.

Sundsbak attended the 50th annual show of the National Junior Angus Association last week in Madison, Wisconsin, and will be showing at the North Dakota State Fair, which begins Friday.

Outside of shows, Sundsbak has had a busy year as a NJAA board member — much of it on the road. Shortly after her election she traveled to North Carolina for the Leaders Engaged in Angus Development conference. A trip to the American Angus Association headquarters in St. Joseph, Missouri, followed.

Her travels have taken her from Texas to Winnipeg, Canada, and from Maryland to Denver. She made a couple of stops in Ohio that were highlights because of insights gained into the Certified Angus Beef program and genotype show judging. Unlike phenotype judging, which is the more traditional judge's objective and subjective rating of animal qualities based on appearance, genotype considers genetic traits, Sundsbak explained.

Sundsbak was particularly interested in the history and the purpose behind certified beef.

"It's not just a grade of beef like people think it is. It's a branded beef product. I think it's very important for consumers to know where their food comes from," she said.

Sundsbak had considered herself fairly knowledgeable about the Angus industry coming onto the board but found she's learned so much more in the past year.

"I have learned a lot from my Dad and my grandfather. I have a lot of the background information, but I furthered my knowledge on everything," she said.

"The Angus Association is topnotch," she added. "The Angus Association has set the bar so high. We have the most registered cattle in the world. All the things they offer through the National Junior Angus Association for kids to go to is like no other."

Last year, Sundsbak earned NJAA's Bronze and Silver awards for her achievements. Juniors must meet point requirements in many areas of participation to receive the honors. They are evaluated on their progress in producing and merchandising Angus cattle as well as their activities. Sundsbak participated in an NJAA mentoring program from 2013-15 and served as a voting delegate from 2012-2015.

Silver winners become eligible to apply for the Gold award in their final year with NJAA.

Following her term on the junior association board, Sundsbak wants to remain active with the American Angus Association through its program with young adults.

Her experiences have sparked a desire to someday work in event planning for an agricultural group. She also wants to raise her own herd of Angus cattle. With several head already registered in her name, she is on her way.

"To me, there's no nicer sight in the world than a black cow on grass," she said. "I have just gotten to bond with them and fall in love with them over the past 20 years of my life."


Information from: Minot Daily News,